GHANA, MODELE DE STABILITE
Paris ne tarit pas d'éloges pour le Ghana qu'il considère comme un modèle pour l'Afrique, "un pôle de stabilité dans une région traversée de tensions".
Fi C'est dans une atmosphère
très chaleureuse que s'est déroulée la visite du chef
de l'Etat ghanéen en France, du 24 au 27 mars dernier. Avec le Nigeria,
dont le président élu, Olusegun Obasanjo, avait effectué
un bref séjour dans la capitale française une semaine auparavant,
et l'Afrique du Sud, avec laquelle Paris s'efforce d'établir des
relations privilégiées, le Ghana constitue en effet un des
principaux pôles de la nouvelle politique française en Afrique.
Accra avait déjà été choisi avec Abidjan pour
la récente tournée hautement symbolique des ministres britannique
et français des Affaires étrangères, Hubert Védrine
et Robin Cook, qui inaugurait officiellement la concertation en politique
africaine de ces deux anciennes puissances coloniales rivales. Pour le
Ghana, entouré de pays francophones, une telle initiative ne pouvait
qu'être "bienvenue", devait souligner le chef de l'Etat ghanéen
qui s'est énergiquement employé à dépasser
clivages et malentendus avec ses voisins immédiats. Ainsi, Accra
entretient-il aujourd'hui des relations fort amicales avec Abidjan
et, avec Lomé, les relations autrefois tumultueuses sont désormais
normalisées. Enfin, le réchauffement, il y a deux ans, des
rapports avec le Burkina, presque inexistants depuis l'assassinat de Thomas
Sankara, a parachevé la mise en place d'un environnement censé
favoriser l'accélération de l'intégration régionale
Mais Si le Ghana mise fortement sur le renforcement de la Cedeao, et notamment l'application de mesures d'ordre économique facilitant la réalisation de projets communs, y compris la création de zones franches pour le marché régional, les pays francophones, réunit dans l'Uemoa, font, eux, toujours bande à part en procédant à vitesse redoublée à leur propre intégration économique. A ce propos, le chef d'Etat ghanéen ne pouvait qu'apprécier les assurances du gouvernement français de ne pas favoriser cette scission de facto au sein de la Cedeao, mais d'oeuvrer, en coordination avec la Grande-Bretagne, a l'harmonisation de deux entités, l'une pouvant éventuellement constituer le moteur pour revitaliser la seconde...
Il a d'ailleurs beaucoup été question de politique régionale dans l'entretien de Rawlings avec Jacques Chirac, qui a tenu à faire l'éloge du rôle du Ghana dans les crises qui ont secoué la région occidentale, notamment au Libéria. le conflit en RDC et l'éventuelle création d'une force d'interposition en cas de solution négociée ont également été abordés.
LA CONTRIBUTION DU GHANA EN CE domaine est d'autant plus appréciée que ses unités militaires ont acquis une réputation de grande discipline. "Nous accueillons en vous un champion des causes africaines, a affirmé au dîner du Quai d'Orsay le ministre délégué à la Coopération, Charles Josselin. Mais aussi, poursuivait-il, un champion de la démocratie en Afrique." Le ministre français, qui n'a pas hésité à qualifier le Ghana de "modèle" pour le continent africain, a rappelé les réformes de la politique de Paris envers l'Afrique, et notamment la création d'une nouvelle zone de "solidarité prioritaire" dont le Ghana fait partie. Quatrième bailleur de fond bilatéral du Ghana, presque à égalité avec la Grande-Bretagne (après le Japon, les Etats-Unis et l'Allemagne), la France concentre son aide notamment dans les secteurs de l'énergie électrique, de l'hydraulique, du développement rural, de la création d'infrastructures et de la formation En
revanche, les investissements du secteur privé ne sont pas à la hauteur de l'effort fourni par l'aide publique au développement: la France n'est que douzième parmi les pays investisseurs dans ce pays anglophone. Lors des rencontres avec les hommes d'affaires français, aussi bien à la Chambre de commerce de Bordeaux
qu'au Medef à Paris, le président Rawlings a souligné cette incongruité et a encouragé les Français à tirer davantage profit de la nouvelle législation libérale en matière d'investissements Il est indéniable, a-t-il affirmé, que les investisseurs de l'Hexagone "connaissent l'Afrique mieux que tous leur concurrents !" Au cours de ces rencontres, des nouveaux champs d'intervention ont été identifiés pour le secteur privé français, qui devrait bientôt pêcher une délégation d'hommes d'affaires à Accra. Entre-temps, la capitale ghanéenne se prépare à recevoir, le 25 mai, le sixième
Sommet africain-afro-américain qui devrait donner un coup d'accélérateur aux investissements de la communauté du business afro-américain, dont les échanges, en constante progression, sont actuellement surtout de nature commerciale.
Rawlings, qui a lancé un appel à l'Europe en faveur de l'annulation de la dette des pays les plus pauvres, ajoutait qu'il suffirait "d'un petit pourcentage du montant dépensé en Afrique pour combattre le communisme durant la guerre froide pour que nombre de pays africains puissent faire face à leurs graves problèmes économiques."
Funeral preparations have begun for
one of Africa's most important traditional monarchs, the king of the Ashanti.
The Asantahene, as the king is known, rules over an area centred on the Ghanaian city of Gumasi, but the monarchy's influence extends beyond today's national borders.
The late Asantahene, Otumfuo Opoko-Ware II, is to lie in state for several days before his burial later this week.
Only after the funeral is over will public discussion be allowed as to who will succeed him and a lavish and colourful coronation ceremony will take place to install the new Asantahene.
His successor will continue a dynasty which began some 300 years ago when the Ashanti empire began to establish itself as a serious power in the region.
The Ashanti empire is based in a
fertile part of Ghana which is also rich in gold. The British colonialists
only conquered the empire after several wars during the 19th century.
Modern-day Ghana is a liberal democracy, but the position of Asantahene is still widely respected by government and opposition politicians alike.
Several other African monarchs are due to attend the funeral ceremonies, including the King of the Zulus from South Africa and the King of the Mossi from Ghana's neighbour, Burkina Faso.
GREAT tree has been uprooted" in
the Asante kingdom of Ghana! This is
how the Asante — incorrectly dubbed
the "Ashanti" by colonialist and neo-colonialist writers — announced the
death of their king. He was Otumfuor Opoku Ware II, and he has just joined
his ancestors at the age of 79, after reigning for 29 years. He will be
buried this week.
Okay, so some king has died in the North. So what? The event is noteworthy because Asante has a special place in the history of anti-colonial heroism in Africa. For example, in 1824, when Sir Charles MacCarthy, a Briton, attempted to extend British rule into Asante, his army was clobbered and his head cut off, to be attached to the Asante talking drums.
It was not until 50 years later that
Sir Garnet Woleseley was able to lead a British force into the Asante capital,
Kumase. Asante "rebelled" again, and in 1896 another British invasion occurred.
It is one of the ironies of history — hardly ever taught to African students
— that the founder of the Boy Scouts, Major RSS Baden-Powell, was in charge
of the 1896 invasion.
Baden-Powell, who taught the Boy Scouts their so-called "code of honour", exulted in looting the ancestral burial tombs of Asante, in the "Stool House" at Bantama, in Kumase. He carried an enormous collection of sacred gold ornaments back to Britain. After stealing its contents, Baden-Powell burned down the sacred Stool House. "A splendid blaze it made," he wrote. So much for the brotherhood of humans, as preached by the Boy Scouts.
I saw some of the "loot" in London
in 1982, at an exhibition called Asante Kingdom of Gold. It was quite disgusting
to see so many indescribably beautiful works of art, from your own culture,
kept in a British museum which does not even normally put it on show, but
hides it in basements, alongside collections from the equally "primitive"
Zulu or Matabele kingdoms.
The British government has returned the Stone of Scone, seized after a similar war with Scotland, but won't hear of returning Africa's cultural treasures to Africa. For a people like us who have been relegated to the ranks of the "uncivilised" for so long by Euro-American writers and anthropologists, this is certainly a double punishment. But what can we do?
I mentioned the Asante talking drums.
What are these? You see, the Asante language is an example of the beauty
at the heart of many African cultures. In Asante, what can be said with
imagery is never said in plain tongue; what a proverb can make plain is
never stated as fact. Every technique of poetry is employed: rhyme, assonance,
apostrophe, simile and especially alliteration (yes: crafted by so-called
The language, being "tonal", lends itself to imitation by drums — one "male" (deep sound) and the other "female" (light in tone). These drums, called Fontomfrom or Atumpan, are used to recount whole tracts of ancestral history, which serves to "psyche up" the current king.
When the king of Asante is walking
in public, the drums remind him that: "Obrempong nante bre, bre. (The mighty
one steps softly, softly.)"
When the king is receiving important guests, the drums recite encomiums to him:
Osei, wo na woworo kawa firi wo mmatiri so!
Kurotwiamansa wonnsuro hwasuo.
Wo na wodi sika atomprada
Wo ho ye hu, who ye hu, wo ho ye hu.
(You are the king who can take his ring off from the shoulder-end of his arm!/You are the leopard that fears not the dawn's dew in the deep forest./You are the one who spends gold without first having it refined./You are awesome, you are fearful, you are terrible to behold.)
I wish you could hear someone interpreting these drums, as they imitate the human voice, as it recites these words! It is a remarkable skill and one which will hopefully be taught in the best African schools one day, alongside the skill of playing in a Western symphony orchestra.
Because the Asante did not have writing, the drum language is extremely important to them, for without accurate history, there can be no authentic succession to the legendary "Golden Stool" (throne) of the Asante.
The story of this Golden Stool is
another formidable panel in the Asante armour. When king Osei Tutu founded
the kingdom in the mid-17th century, it was made up of a group of disparate,
semi-autonomous states, given to much wrangling between themselves. So
Osei Tutu asked his spiritual counsellor, a "super-sangoma" called Okomfo
Anokye, what could be done to cement the nation permanently together.
Anokye asked the king to assemble the entire nation at one place. Then, having heightened their sense of credulity with an adequate display of drumming, dancing and magical displays, Anokye caused a golden stool to descend from the heavens, in a cloud of dust. The gathering cheered to the high heavens.
But Anokye wasn't finished: he then asked the male and female heads of each clan to donate some of their pubic hair, as well as fingernails and toenails. He burnt the mixture into a powder, smeared some of it on the Golden Stool and gave the rest to the gathered potentates to drink.
Anokye then announced: "From now on, the souls of you and your descendants are inextricably bound up with the fate of this Golden Stool. If it is ever lost, so will your clans be."
From that day to this, the Golden
Stool of Asante has exerted a hold upon the Asante mind that is impossible
to comprehend. For instance, in 1900, when Asante had been finally conquered
by the British, and its king, Prempeh I, exiled to the Seychelles Islands,
the British governor, Sir Frederick Hodgson, paid a triumphant visit to
Kumase. At a durbar held to welcome him, he committed a serious gaffe by
haughtily demanding: "Where is the Golden Stool? Why am I not sitting on
it this moment?"
The Asante quietly left the durbar ground to prepare for war. Hodgson had committed sacrilege: not even the Asante king is allowed to place his bottom on the Golden Stool. When the king is enstooled, he is held up to hover over it, but is not placed upon it. And for a white man to demand that his bottom should be placed on it was to the Asante no less than a declaration of war.
So, led, of all people, by a woman
warrior called Yaa Asantewaa — the bravest male warriors had been exiled
with king Prempeh to the Seychelles — the Asante besieged the British party
in their fort. At night, when the Asante war drums boomed around the fort,
the British played Rule Britannia on a phonograph as a "reply"! It must
have been one of the most bizarre episodes in the comic history of colonialism.
The Britons were spared their lives only because the Asante knew that king Prempeh would be a goner if they killed the British.
It is all this fascinating history that will be commemorated in the next few days as Asante bids farewell to Otumfuo Opoku Ware II.
In case you wondered, I am not an Asante. In fact, my Akyem people were feared by the Asante — but that's another story for another day.
Crucial by-election in Ghana
An important by-election is taking place in Ghana later today following the death of an opposition MP in the capital, Accra.
Five candidates are contesting the seat, and correspondents say that if the ruling NDC party wins, it'll have the two-thirds majority it needs in parliament to change the constitution.
The opposition fears the government wants to change the constitution to allow President Jerry Rawlings to stand for a third term in office.
The Queen Mother of the Ashanti dynasty in Ghana has nominated her son as the sixteenth king, or Asantehene.
The previous incumbent of the Ashanti Golden Throne, Otumfuo Opoku Ware the second, died in February and his funeral was held last Thursday.
The Queen Mother, Nana Afua Kobi, will now present the choice of her son, a forty nine year old businessman, Nana Kwaku Dua, to Ashanti traditional councils for their decision.
Correspondents say the Ashanti king has no formal power in Ghana, but considerable political influence, and the Queen Mother's announcement ends what has, in effect, been a power vacuum in the royal line of one of the country's largest groups.
The newly-appointed King of the Ashantis -- one of the most important traditional rulers in Africa -- has begun his initiation rites in the central Ghanaian city of Kumasi.
The new king, Nana Kweku Duah, was appointed by a complex process of consultations involving the Ashanti Queen Mother and the Ashanti committee.
He was named after a period of mourning for the former king, who died after thirty years on the throne.
The BBC West Africa correspondent says the Ashanti king is an immensely powerful figure and is widely revered beyond the boundaries of modern-day Ghana.
Eighteen months from now, at the December 2000 elections, President Jerry Rawlings will stand down from Ghana's highest office. He will be 54 and a new era will have begun in Ghana.
It will be the first time in 18 years that Ghana will be without Rawlings steering the ship of state. And people are already asking what the future will be.
Rawlings will be leaving behind a solid legacy of peace (as opposed to the mayhem in other parts of West Africa), a democratic system of government (even though he first burst onto the scene through a military coup) and an economy resurrected from the ashes of the mid-1970s.
Ghana's economy has come a long way from the hardships of 1983 when the IMF/World Bank-supported structural adjustment programme (SAP) was launched. To the Bretton Woods institutions, the economy has done well over the last 16 years. It has even been bouyant! But ordinary Ghanaians are not so sure. They say the shrinking size of their pockets and the struggle for daily life mean the IMF/World Bank figures do not come from the real Ghana.
But whichever side you are on, the fact remains that the economy and infrastructure such as telecoms, roads, port facilities, etc, are much better today than they were in 1982 at Rawlings' second coming.
"I have to admit," Rawlings said recently, "that the fierce pride of determination which was characteristic of the hard days of the early 1980s has given way to a certain degree of complacency. As social and economic conditions improve, it seems that people's expectations tend to outpace the effort they are prepared to put in, and this tends to produce some amount of dissatisfaction."
Rawlings has set Ghana a target date of 2020 to achieve middle-income status. Many think it is a tall order.
So, what will life after Rawlings be? There are fears that his ruling National Democratic Party (NDC) might lose the next elections without him. If that happens, the country will still be left in a safe pair of hands, in the care of the man who will become the next president, John Agyekum Kuffour, leader of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
An economist and political scientist, Kuffour has had time in the wings to study the mechanics driving the Ghanaian economy. He is likely to do well, if not better, than his predecessor.
If, on the other hand, the NDC wins again (which it might just do), it will be business as usual as the new president (who is now Rawlings' No.2) Professor John Atta Mills is likely to continue from where Rawlings left off, creating an even more stable atmosphere for business, politics and the economy to thrive.
One thing going for Ghana (which is absent in some of the major countries in West Africa) is that the "coup mentality" which ushered in the period of political and economic instability from 1966 (when Nkrumah was overthrown) till Rawlings' second coming on 31 December 1982, is gone forever.
After 17 years of clamping down on military dissent and subversion, Rawlings has inadvertently given the country a measure of political stability that only a crazy soldier would attempt to overthrow in a military coup.
The country's once trigger-happy military has gradually come to accept the fact that it has no business running the country. That is the job of the elected representatives of the people.
The two general elections of 1992 and 1996 have consolidated the democratic edifice, making it even stronger.
Ghana's democratic foundations are now firmly set, giving the country the confidence to march boldly into the new millennium, and to look at life after Rawlings with even more hope.
Five years ago, Ghana opened its market with the setting up of free zones under the Ghana Free Zones Board. The Board was inaugurated in 1996 as a one-stop approval service to help investors set up quickly without the frustrating red tape of the past. Under the Free Zone Act 1995, investments in the free zones are guaranteed against nationalisation and expropriation.
Nearly 50 projects were registered in the first 18 months of the Act. Investors are now able to set up anywhere in the country while still benefitting from the free zone incentives. At the last count, investors had come from Germany, South Africa, Italy, Lebanon, France, Malaysia, Ireland, America, Austria, China, the United Arab Emirates and Britain. They are producing various goods, including gas cylinders, furniture and the processing of fruit, cocoa and fish.
The Free Zone Act empowers the president of Ghana to declare any part of the country a free zone. Already, sites in Tema and Takoradi (and an inland free port near Kumasi) have been made available for free zone development.
The incentive regime for the development and operation of free zone enclaves or single-factory free zones include:
(a) 100% exemption from income tax on profits for 10 years; (b) Income tax rate after 10 years shall not exceed 8%; (c) 100% exemption from direct and indirect duties on all imports for production and exports from the free zones; (d) 100% ownership of shares by any investor - foreign or national - in a free zone; (e) no import licence requirement; (f) relief from double taxation for foreign investors and employees; and (g) minimum custom duties.
In addition, free zone investors are allowed to operate foreign currency accounts with banks in Ghana; and up to 30% of annual production of goods and services are permitted to be sold in the local market.
Four years ago, the Rawlings government launched its Vision 2020 programme with the aim of making Ghana a middle-income status country in 21 years time. Part of Vision 2020 is a Trade and Investment Gateway Project which hopes to make Ghana the entrepot of West Africa.
At the heart of the Project is the upgrading of the country's two main commercial ports at Tema in the east and Takoradi in the west. Work on the two ports are near completion, and a recent $50m credit facility granted by the World Bank to the port improvement project has helped Ghana move nearer the goal of becoming the gateway to West Africa.
The Tema and Takoradi ports will be given greater autonomy over their own affairs, while the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority will act as the holding company overseeing corporate development and coordination. The ultimate goal is to turn Tema into a "landlord port" where private operators will be granted concessions to handle the existing jobs.
Plans are also well advanced for the development of the first major "inland free port" near Kumasi, Ghana's second largest city, to lessen the burden on the Tema and Takoradi ports.
Reports from Ghana say police fired teargas, rubber bullets and water canon to disperse students protesting in the capital, Accra.
The students, who were demonstrating against increases in university fees brought traffic and other commercial activities in parts of the capital to a halt for several hours.
The confrontation came after police prevented the students handing in a petition to the president's office.
Jeune Afrique Economie